Ten nominees for the Producers Guild of America’s Daryl F. Zanuck award have been announced, and Sarah Polley‘s Women Talking — a dialogue-driven film that wokester critics have been touting as a Best Picture contender since it premiered in Telluride — didn’t make the cut.
I’ve been saying all along that Women Talking is a non-starter, and THR‘s Scott Feinberg tweeted during Telluride that he’d be surprised if it catches on among male industry veterans.
And yet Darren Aronofsky‘s The Whale, a film that more than a few gentle souls are terrified of even watching, is among the ten…go figure.
The ten PGA nominees: Avatar: The Way of Water (20th Century Studios); The Banshees of Inisherin (Searchlight Pictures); Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Marvel Studios); Elvis (Warner Bros.); Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24…no!); The Fabelmans (Universal Pictures); Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (Netflix); Tár (Focus Features); Top Gun: Maverick (Paramount Pictures); and The Whale (A24).
HE to Friendo #1: “Are these Next Best Picture guys crazy? Women Talking is in third place among Best Picture contenders? On what planet?”
HE to Ruimy: “The truth is that almost every pundit has Women Talking in their predictions, but don’t be surprised if it misses out on a nomination. I’d say right now 60/40 it gets nominated.”
Friendo #2 to HE: “When it comes to Women Talking, the fix is in. A Best Picture nomination is going to happen whether people want it to or not. You could see that in Telluride.”:
HE to Ruimy: “Because of #MeToo tokenism and the fact that the one male character (Ben Whishaw‘s “August Epp”) is passive and tearful?”
Friendo #1 to HE: “The critics will have to drive this movie to Oscar nominations, and I don’t think they’re all on board.”
HE to friendos #1 and #2: “There are more than a few male voices, not just certain critics & columnists but filmmakers who are not on board. The bottom line, I realize, is that most male critics are afraid of #MeToo and are certainly not going to argue the point.”
Friendo #2: “Don’t you remember grown men weeping in Telluride after that?”
HE to friendo #2: “No, I don’t. A wealthy older guy told me he hated it, in fact — unsolicited. And a 40ish straight woman told me she hated it also. Both in Telluride.”
Friendo #2: “All three #MeToo movies — Women Talking, She Said and TAR — are a slog. She Said is the best one.”
HE to friendo #2: “TAR is a #MeToo movie? Since when? Lydia Tar is the architect of her own demise. She’s an X-factor Polanski figure. Nothing #MeToo about it.”
Friendo #2 to HE: “That’s the whole point of the #MeToo movement — exposing people who warrant their own demise by having been abusive.”
“Will Joe & Jane Resist Women Talking?,” posted on 10.11.22:
The new Women Talking trailer tells you it’s a quality-level thing for smart women…grim, somber, articulate, muted palette, lotsa dialogue. I can only tell you that as much as I recognized the pedigree and respected the aims of Sarah Polley’s film (UA Releasing, 12.2), I looked at my watch at least seven or eight times.
Posted on 9.9.22: Step outside the woke-critic realm and there’s a sizable body of opinion (or so I determined after speaking with Telluride viewers) that Sarah Polley‘s Women Talking is a static, dialogue-driven #MeToo chamber piece that could be fairly described as a “tough sit.”
Based on Miriam Toews’ 2018 novel, which is “loosely based on real-life events that occurred in 2011 at the Manitoba Colony in Bolivia,” Women Talking is about several women dealing with corrosive sexual trauma.
Set within an isolated American Mennonite community, Women Talking focuses on a nocturnal, seemingly dusk-to-dawn discussion inside a barn, and focuses on eight or so women debating whether to leave their community to escape the brutality of several men who have repeatedly drugged and raped them.
Fortified by several first-rate performances (most notably from Jessie Buckley, Rooney Mara and Claire Foy) and currently enjoying a 92% and 90% approval ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, respectively, the post-Telluride narrative is that Women Talking will probably be Best Picture-nominated and will certainly be in the running for a SAG Best Ensemble prize.
The other narrative is that this counted-on support for Women Talking will be largely emotional (particularly driven by the overturning of Roe v. Wade) and certainly political.
As I wrote in a 9.5 piece called “Telluride Hive Mind,” “The elite Telluride critic community feels it has no choice but to worship Polley‘s film…politically speaking there’s no upside to not praising it.”
I added that Women Talking is “sturdy and nicely handled as far as it goes, but sitting through it felt confining and interminable. For me, it was almost totally about waiting for it to end.”
The indisputably brave, lone-wolfish Kyle Smith of The Wall Street Journal: “Critically acclaimed as an oblique commentary on the #MeToo moment, it’s an example of a prestige film that is more focused on point-scoring than coherence.”
A sentence in Jordan Ruimy’s mostly negative Toronto assessment, however, gave me pause: “There were women sobbing all around me during the press & industry screening of Sarah Polley’s Women Talking, so I assume the film will work with a large contingent of people. But it fell flat for me.”
Roe v. Wade plus Toronto “sobbing” means Women Talking isn’t going away and will command repeated salutations in award-season assessment articles between now and early ’23 (the Oscar telecast happens on 3.12.23). The bottom line is that, as THR‘s Scott Feinberg suggested during Telluride, a significant percentage of Academy and guild members will probably be less than enthused.
This won’t stop the wokester cabal, of course. They will push for Women Talking with the same fervor they used to (unsuccessfully) take down Green Book, and which some of them will use to diminish Sam Mendes‘ immensely affecting Empire of Light, which will absolutely be Best Picture-nominated…trust me.